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Belfast and Northern Ireland

A Weekend Trip to Newcastle and Slieve Donard

Colombian student Isabella recently had an opportunity to visit Newcastle, a seaside resort town located only 90 minutes from Belfast. Read how she made the most of her trip by hiking Slieve Donard and enjoying local food and drink.

Student at Slieve Donard

One of the best hobbies that living on this wonderful island has allowed me to discover is hiking. Enjoying nature and fresh air while observing incredible landscapes is one of the best activities I have done in my life. Not only because it allows me to relax and free myself from the stress that academic spaces can generate, but it is also another way to spend time with my friends, get away from the chaos of the city and enjoy the peace of nature.

I recently had the opportunity to visit Newcastle, a beautiful and cozy town on the west coast of Northern Ireland, just an hour and a half away from Belfast. I went with my friends from Queen’s. We took the 8am bus at the Europa Bus Station with an 18-pound round trip to Newcastle Bus Station, and it was here that our weekend adventure began.

Group on hike at Slieve Donard

Starting the hike with my friends

Preparing for the hike

Our trip to Newcastle was more than just touring and getting to know this beautiful town. Our main purpose was to hike and reach the top of Slieve Donard, which is the highest point in Northern Ireland, so we were very prepared for the morning. Considering how long and strenuous this hike is, my best advice for you is to eat a breakfast that leaves you very satisfied and be prepared with enough hydration and snacks that can give you energy on the road.

Waterfall at Slieve Donard

Mini waterfalls

Regarding the outfit, be prepared enough for all kinds of weather, because as you go up the temperature will go down and you will feel colder, so it does not hurt to carry an extra waterproof jacket in your suitcase. We also wore shoes with a resistant and strong sole, because the terrain is not always dry, but wet and muddy.

Ready to hike

From Newcastle bus station to the entrance of the mountain trail, it is about a 20-minute walk. When you reach the beginning of the trail, take a breath, enjoy the smell of nature, and don't think about the 2 hours of steep road that await you ahead or the other 2 to go down (4 hours in total at a medium pace). Just walk calmly and cautiously, remembering to raise your head so you can enjoy the view of one of the most beautiful landscapes you will see in your life.

Mountain trail at Slieve Donard

Rocky flat trail

On the road

It is very important that during the journey you pay close attention to the signs you see along the way. Don't ignore the warnings and stay off the beaten path. The trail is designed so that you can reach the top safely, do not try to mark your own route by walking through unmarked places or the forest, this is very irresponsible, and you would be risking your safety.

View from Slieve Donard

Look behind to see the sea

The landscapes

During the first stretch of ascent, you will enjoy walking in the middle of a lush forest, and you will enjoy the sound of the river streams that descend the mountain. In some parts, you will be able to see beautiful waterfalls and on clear trails, you will have a beautiful view of the sea and the beach of Newcastle. Then the path becomes easier to climb, while you will be on flatter and less steep terrain for at least half an hour. Here you can enjoy a beautiful view of different peaks, the greenery of the mountains and the stone paths in the landscape.

When you're done hiking this relatively flat trail, the challenging but entertaining part begins. At least an hour on a steep ascent up the mountain on a stone path. I felt like I was in a Viking movie or Game of Thrones. Climb carefully and when you find a space, stop to appreciate the view you leave behind, and take the opportunity to take a little breath to keep going. Don't be discouraged, it will all be worth it in the end.

Wall at Slieve Donard

The view from the wall

After this wonderful and strenuous climb, you will find the wall of Mourne Mountains. The road does not end here, but it is an obligatory stop where you must stop to appreciate the magnificence of the landscape on both sides of the wall. It was one of the most beautiful things that my eyes have ever seen, and without a doubt made me forget the exhaustion that the climb had generated in me.  Seeing all those mountains and their rocky peaks, made me feel very grateful to be able to live on this wonderful island that has allowed me to have this type of experience.

The road continued and the summit of the mountain was already closer, about 20 minutes further up. We finally made it and touched the traditional victory stone. It was very cold and part of the road was full of snow. We were very careful about where to step. After this victory, we rested for a while and then started the descent. The descent is easier than the hike, however it is challenging and you should be very cautious because of the type of surfaces on the mountain. Don't rush and be very careful when going down.

Summit of Slieve Donard

Reaching the summit

Rest in Newcastle

When we got back downstairs, we were hungry. Very close to the entrance to the trail and in front of the sea, we found a very welcoming and delicious restaurant to enjoy a good lunch and some well-deserved beers. Its name was O'Hares Lounge Bars, and it was the best place to eat and chat about our experience. After lunch, we went to the boardwalk on the beach, the weather was good that day, so we were able to be there for a while to rest before heading back to Belfast from Newcastle Bus Station.

Newcastle Boardwalk

The sun from Newcastle Boardwalk

In short, going to Slieve Donard is essential if you live in Northern Ireland because it allows you to experience natural beauty, take part in outdoor activities, immerse yourself in the local culture, improve your well-being and connect with the pride and tradition of the region.

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Information for students from Colombia

Isabella Barros De La Rosa

Violence, Terrorism and Security | Postgraduate Student | Colombia

Hello, my name is Isabella Barros, I am 24 years old and I am from a beautiful city on the Caribbean coast of Colombia called Barranquilla. I am currently pursuing my master's in Violence, Terrorism and Security at Queen’s.

I am very into running and outdoor activities. That's why Belfast is so amazing to live in, because of the landscapes, and the spaces for this kind of hobby.

Besides running and studying, you can find me in any bookstore, wandering around the city, or enjoying a pleasant coffee in a cute cafe!

Isabella Barros De La Rosa